Growing Domestic Concerns
Differing Assessments of Soviet Strength
American perceptions of the Soviet Union currently fall into two general categories. Hard-liners tend to see the world primarily in terms of American-Soviet competition. They advocate an immediate and significant increase in American military power to deter Soviet aggression. At the other extreme — and increasingly on the defensive — are those who view the Soviets as insecure about their own domestic and external problems and the world as a complex arena where the superpowers exert some influence but not control.
There is little doubt as to where the Reagan administration stands in this debate. At his Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. repeatedly emphasized the need for a U.S. military buildup to counter Soviet arms gains in recent years and to enable the United States to succeed in the fundamental task of “the management of Soviet power.”
Haig repeated this theme in his first press conference as secretary of state, held in Washington Jan. 28. He accused the Russians of promoting international terrorism and said that future arms control talks would be contingent on Soviet conduct and activities around the world. Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger also has taken a hard line against the Soviets. Weinberger told the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 28 that “the Soviet Union has embarked upon a military buildup unprecedented in world history.” For nearly 20 years, he said, “the Soviets have relentlessly improved their military capabilities across the spectrum” while U.S. strength has declined.